I must say, growing Broad Beans can give you a few anxious moments. The plants you have so carefully nurtured produce all those lovely flowers, at which point you think "Great, I'll have a huge crop!"
And then they all shrivel up and die... You now think "Oh no, I'll have no crop at all!"
But then they do this... and you realise that all is not lost after all.
Wouldn't it be nice if ALL the flowers turned into pods. Wishful thinking! Even though my plants produced masses of flowers, I would say that something like a quarter of them have set, or are setting pods. In my case this is normal - it happens every year. I suppose the plants instinctively know how many pods they need, or will be able to support, and abort the rest. I'm fairly sure it can't be because three quarters of the flowers didn't get pollinated; those plants have been swarming with bees!
I am always very assiduous with watering my Broad Beans, especially at this time, because if they get parched this may also cause poor pollination. In warm weather I often water the beans twice a day, applying the water with a watering-can, directly to their roots.
One of the most common causes of poor crops of Broad Beans is infestation of aphids (aka blackfly), which suck the sap of the plant and weaken it. They are particularly fond of the soft tips of the bean plants, and for this reason gardeners often pinch out the tips when the plants have reached a good height. This year, thank Goodness, I have not been troubled too badly by blackfly, and I have been able to control them with applications of very dilute washing-up liquid, applied with a sprayer.
While I'm on the subject of Broad Beans, I want to show you what happened to that little plant I described a few weeks ago as the "runt of the litter", because it was very much smaller than all the others. This is it on 19th April:
|That's a 7cm pot|
Just for curiosity, I didn't discard it, I planted it in a vacant space in the bed where my Runner Beans now are:
It has thanked me for the reprieve by producing just one pod - but it's a good one, the same size as the ones its bigger siblings have produced.
In fact, looking carefully at this photo, I think a second pod might be setting too. Woohoo! I expect to be harvest my first beans of this year in about 10 days time, and that pod will definitely be included.